Thursday, October 4, 2012

NHL Cancels Regular Season Games

The NHL has canceled all regular season game through October 24, as the lockout continues and ruins the hope of a 2012 NHL season.

Knicks Sign Rasheed Wallace

Knicks Sign Rasheed Wallace
The New York Knicks, already the oldest team in the a little older this week with the addition of power forward/center Rasheed Wallace.  The Knicks and Wallace agreed to non-guaranteed contract for the veterans’ minimum of $1.7 million for one season.  Wallace ended his retirement to play for the Knicks, last playing in the NBA during the 2009-2010 season for the Boston Celtics. 

 “I’m not expecting to come in here to average 25 points.  I’m not expecting to come in here to average 35, 40 minutes,” said Wallace.  “I’m not one to complain.  I know I’m not the number 1 guy here. I’m willing to accept my role.”  Wallace is expected to help the Knicks off the bench as a backup to starting power forward Amar’e Stoudemire. 

Wallace will add another dimension to an already deep Knicks team, as he is an above average post defender and can knock down an outside jump shot.  His veteran leadership will also be coveted, as the goal for the Knicks front office this off-season was to surround Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler with veterans as the Knicks are in win-now mode.
Part of the reason Wallace came out of retirement and joined the Knicks was the feeling that the Knicks could win this season.  Wallace’s agent, Bill Strickland, also added that the relationship that Wallace has with Knicks head coach Mike Woodson made it an easy choice for him, as Wallace was either going to join the Knicks or stay retired.

Woodson and Wallace go back to the 2003-2004 season, when Woodson was an assistant on Larry Brown’s Detroit Pistons staff that won the NBA championship.  After some coaxing and convincing from Woodson, Wallace decided he would give it a go in late August and started making appearances at the Knicks training center in Greenburgh, New York.

What exactly will be Wallace’s role with the Knicks people will ask, and that is still up in the air.  “It’s not like we’re looking at a player who’s going to play a lot of minutes,” Woodson said.  “He’s an insurance policy and (a) what-if.”

As stated earlier, Wallace should see some minutes as the backup to Stoudemire and can also fill in at center when needed.  Wallace will have some catching up to do, being away from the NBA for two seasons and playing only in North Carolina Pro-Am leagues.  Here is a video of Wallace at the pro-am but please be advised, the video contains strong language and is not suitable for all ages.

Even without viewing that video, it is common knowledge that conditioning will be a concern for Wallace and the Knicks.  “If he gets in and plays 5-10 minutes, we’ve got to hope it’s the best 5-10 minutes to help us win basketball games.  We’ve got enough guys on this team that we don’t have to play guys a lot of minutes,” Woodson said. 

“We’re not looking to have Rasheed play 40 minutes a night…. He’s a veteran player who knows what it takes to get himself in game-ready shape and we have high confidence that he’ll be ready to go when it’s time,” said Stoudemire when asked about the signing.

No matter how its cut, this is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Knicks.  If Wallace proves to be too far from basketball shape, they can cut him no problem since his contact is not guaranteed.  But if he gives the Knicks any type of production, he can be a valuable piece on what has become a very deep team both on and off the court with his knowledge of the game and experience. 

Mets Head into Off-Season with Many Questions

The New York Mets ended their season with a meaningless 4-2 win over the Miami Marlins on Wednesday. Now it is time for the Mets to figure out what they want to do for next year.

The two main priorities for the New York Mets front office are third baseman David Wright, the franchise's all-time hits leader, and Cy Young candidate and 20 game winner R.A Dickey. These two were the heart and soul of 2012 Mets, and according to Sandy Alderson, they will be in Mets uniforms for years to come.

After Dickey and Wright, the Mets are a major question mark. Only four New York Met starting pitchers started more than 20 games this season, and only Dickey and Johnathan Niese started 30 games. Dickey and Niese are also the only starters to reach double digit wins. Dickey posted a 20 win season while Niese collected 13 wins. Johan Santana was far from being himself this season coming off of shoulder surgery. Yes, he did throw a no-hitter against St.Louis, but what has he done since? His first start after the no-hitter against the Yankees, he gave up six runs in five innings including back to back to back home runs.

The Mets bullpen was a question mark all season, and for good reason. The Mets lacked any solid relief pitching, and blew countless leads late in games. The Mets platooned a number of pitchers out to the mound in relief. John Rauch (3-7, 3.59), Manny Acosta (1-3, 6.46), and Frank Francisco (1-3, 5.53) were disappointments for the Mets, while Bobby Parnell (5-4, 2.49) had his share of good moments and bad moments.

On the offensive side, the Mets must decide what to do with first baseman Ike Davis. Davis finished the season with a .227 avg with 32 home runs, and 90 RBI, but early in the season Davis was lucky if he was hitting his weight. It was an ugly struggle for Ike, who could not find any way out his miserable slump. Davis finished the season on a positive note hitting .273 with four home runs and seven RBI in his final 10 games.

With the off-season upon them, the Mets must find a way to become a top contender in the National League East, and it will not be easy with the way the Braves and Nationals played this year. The Mets need another big bat in the lineup to help David Wright, and Ike Davis is not the answer, even with his 32 homers this season.

It will be interesting to see what route the Mets decide to take to improve their team for next season. No matter which path they take, it should be a busy off-season for the Mets.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Giants Team Grades: Week 4 vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Sunday, September 30 2012
Final Score: New York Giants: 17 Philadelphia Eagles: 19
Giants Team Grades

The Giants were once again unable to put together a full game against the Eagles, resulting in yet another heartbreaking loss to them.  The Giants have lost nine of the last 10 games against the Eagles including the playoffs.  Some questionable decisions and poor execution led to the Giants dropping to 0-2 in the NFC East and 2-2 overall.

Passing Offense Grade: C+
Eli Manning’s stats look good on the game, throwing for 309 yards and two touchdowns and having the Giants in a position to win at the end of the game.  Manning was hit a few times, but the offensive line protected him enough to not give up any sacks.  Victor Cruz stepped up in the absence of Hakeem Nicks and his replacement Domenik Hixon was huge. 

If the whole game went like that, the grade would be much higher; sadly it did not.  Manning threw a back-breaking interception to start the fourth quarter with the Giants knocking on the Eagles goal line.  He also mad a poor decision on the offensive pass interference called on Ramses Barden, putting Barden in a tough spot and ultimately taking the Giants out of field goal range. 

Barden had drawn two pass interference calls earlier in the drive, but Manning went to the well one too many times.  It was a rare lack of judgment and decision making by Manning, who is usually lights out in the fourth quarter.  Manning does deserve credit though for the drive he orchestrated that staked the Giants a 17-16 lead in the fourth quarter, going 83 yards on five plays ending with a touchdown to Bear Pascoe.

Rushing Offense Grade: D
Ahmad Bradshaw returned to the lineup after hurting his neck against Tampa Bay but had no impact; the Giants run game was shut down once again.  Bradshaw was only able to gain 39 yards on 13 carries, too often looking outside on plays drawn to run up between the tackles.

Overnight sensation Andre Brown only got five carries on the night for 14 yards.  The Giants were never able to get the ground game going and abandoned it, putting the game on Manning’s shoulders.  Brown needs more touches in the coming games as the run game has not been effective with Bradshaw feature in it for over a season.

Pass Defense Grade: B+
The Giants suffered another devastating injury in the secondary, this time to Kenny Phillips.  Phillips is the best player in the defensive backfield and losing him is a huge blow to an already decimated secondary. 

Even with the injury to Phillips, the Giants were still able to contain the Eagles passing game, limiting Vick to 241 yards and one touchdown.  They were not able to get enough pressure on Vick though, as they only hit him three times and sacked him twice, one coming when Vick slide at the end of the Eagles game winning field goal drive. 

Prince Amukamara had a strong game covering Jeremy Maclin, limiting him to only one catch for seven yards.  DeSean Jackson had a strong game though, catching six balls for 99 yards and a touchdown.  Brent Celek also hurt the Giants some, catching a few passes that resulted in first downs.

Rush Defense Grade: D
At the start of the game, the Giants run defense was outstanding.  LeSean McCoy was held to just two yards at halftime and Vick had no rushing yards in the same time.  Disappointingly for the Giants, the second half was a polar opposite.

McCoy shredded the Giants for 121 yards in the second half and allowed 49 to Vick.  McCoy and Vick were able to take advantage of the aggressive Giant defensive line, continuously exposing them and beating them to the corner to the sidelines for big gains. 

The Giant defenders, specifically Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul, were not staying home and allowing the Eagles big plays on cut back runs.  Umenyiora and Pierre-Paul were not staying home and holding contain, something head coach Tom Coughlin is going to rip into them for.

The Giants were able to make a huge stand from the two-yard line, but were unable to stop the run any other time.  The time of possession edge the Eagles held, 33:21 to 26:39, is evidence that the Eagles were running over the Giants and put the Giants in a tough spot.

Special Teams: B+
Lawrence Tynes missed the game winning field goal from 54 yards but never should have been put in that situation.  It was a yard past his career high of 53 yards and only happened because of poor management.  Tynes did knock in his other field goal attempt of the game, from 25 yards out. 

Steve Weatherford had a net of only 38.5 yards on five punts, but the Eagles were only able to return one of the punts for three yards.  That is solid from Weatherford, as he continuously put the Eagles deep in their own end of the field and did not allow anything crazy to happen, something Giants and Eagles fans are used to in these match-ups.

David Wilson was the star of the special teams Sunday night, showing explosiveness and giving the Giants great field position all night.  Wilson had six returns for 217 yards, having returns of 53 and 45 yards in the second half.  Wilson looked like he could take any kickoff back to the house on multiple occasions, giving the Giants a weapon they have lacked in recent seasons.  It is nice to see Wilson have an impact on the game in other aspects than the offense, as he is still struggling there but excelling on special teams.

Coaching Grade: B
The defense struggled at times to contain McCoy and Vick on the ground, but otherwise did a solid job given the predicament of losing yet another starter in the secondary.  The run game needs to get figured out, as the coaching staff should look to give Brown some more touches and possible working Wilson in some more after his electric performance on special teams. 

Playing for a field goal on the last drive is something that will be raised all week, as the Giants were well within Tynes’ range when the offensive pass interference occurred.  Even so, the Giants were in the game and almost stole a game in a very hostile environment but the Giants are beyond morale victories.

Coughlin and his staff are going to have to make sure the Giants stay focused on the task ahead in the Cleveland Browns, as this is a typical trap game.  The Giants have the Browns at home this weekend before playing at San Francisco the following week.  The Giants need to handle business this week before moving onto the 49ers.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Eagles Hold Off Comeback, Drop Giants

Sunday, September 30 2012
Post Game Recap
Final Score: New York Giants: 17 Philadelphia Eagles: 20
Eagles Hold Off Comeback, Drop Giants

It was another classic game in the rivalry between the Giants and Eagles that ended in a way becoming too commonplace for Giants fans.  The Giants were outplayed and lost a heartbreaking game, giving them nine losses in the last 10 games including the playoffs.
The Giants had their opportunity to win, as Eli Manning put the Giants ahead half way through the fourth quarter, but the Giants defense could not contain the Eagles offense.  Manning put the Giants in place for a game winning field goal from Lawrence Tynes, but had them in better position before a questionable throw to Ramses Barden that resulted in 10-yard offensive pass interference on Barden.

Manning had a good game, but had an opportunity to make it an excellent game if not for some uncharacteristic mistakes by the usually calm and cool-mannered Manning.  Manning started the fourth quarter with an ugly interception, not seeing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on a pass intended for Martellus Bennett.  The Eagles converted that turnover into a field goal, giving them a 16-10 lead.  That was a big shift in the game, as it was at least a six point swing, potentially 10 as the Giants were banging on the door of the end zone.

Manning was able to redeem himself following the Eagles’ field goal, as he manufactured an 83 yard drive on five plays, giving the Giants a 17-16 lead.  Manning hit both Barden and Domenik Hixon for big plays, ending the drive with a six-yard touchdown pass to Bear Pascoe.

After the defense was unable to hold the Eagles scoreless, Manning had his shot to win the game.  Manning was able to drive the Giants down to the Eagles 27 yard line thanks to two pass interference calls against the Eagles trying to guard Barden.

Manning went to the well one too many times, attempting another deep pass to Barden on the sidelines, this time resulting in an offensive pass interference and moving the Giants back to the Eagles 37 yard line, setting up Tynes for a 54 yard field goal instead of 44.
It was a moment of lapse in judgment for Manning, who if given the opportunity would definitely do it different next time.  The Giants were already in field goal range for Tynes, so the deep pass was unnecessary; a running play to set up Tynes in the middle of the field would have sufficed. Also, Barden was well covered and was put into a bad position by Manning, who took responsibility saying it was not the correct throw. 

The penalty also put the Giants in a tough position, as they had no timeouts remaining and with only 15 seconds left in the game.  Running a play was too risky, as it was third down so the Giants would not have been able to spike the ball to stop the clock and if the player was unable to get out of bounds the game would have been over.

People will criticize head coach Tom Coughlin for the decision, but he made the correct decision in my opinion because he at least gave his team a chance to win the game with the 54 yard kick.  Had he ran another play, Tynes may not have even had an opportunity to kick.

Manning was missing his best weapon in Hakeem Nicks for the second straight game, but saw a big performance from Hixon in his place.  Hixon led the Giants in receiving tonight, gaining 114 yards on six receptions.  Hixon stepped up much in the way Barden did last week against the Panthers.  Even with the strong performance by Hixon, Manning and Giant fans alike are anxious to see Nicks return to the field.

The secondary became even more of a mess tonight; yet another starter went down with injury.  The Giants entered the game without rookie Jayron Hosley, who had a hamstring injury and Kenny Phillips suffered a gruesome looking knee injury in the first half and was replace by Stevie Brown.  Michael Coe and Antrel Rolle were dealing with hamstring and knee injuries entering the game, but were active.  Corey Webster was also active even with a broken left hand.
The Giants secondary is decimated and losing Phillips would be the most devastating blow of the bunch.  Terrell Thomas being lost in training camp hurts, but Phillips is who sets up the defense and is an intimidating presence in the defensive backfield.  He is a leader out there and the Giants were visibly affected after he left the game, becoming gun shy against the speedy Eagles’ offense.

The Giants return to MetLife Stadium for their week five game against the Cleveland Browns.  This has trap game written all over it, as the Giants have a huge match-up with the San Francisco 49ers in week six.  After the loss tonight though, full confidence should be stored in Coughlin and the coaching staff to come out strong against a very young and inexperienced Browns team.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

What to Watch For: New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Sunday, September 30, 2012
New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles
What to Watch For

The Giants and Eagles will look to renew their rivalry tonight for the first time this season in primetime on Sunday Night Football.  This is a huge game for both teams, as the next time they meet will be the last week of the regular season.  Which ever team gets the win tonight will at worst keep pace with the Cowboys for first place in the division.

-Will the Giants Run Game Continue?

Ahmad Bradshaw will be making his return to the starting lineup tonight after missing last weeks game with what has been described as a “bulge” and “inflamed disk” in his neck.  While being out, Andre Brown has more than filled the void, rushing for 184 yards and two touchdowns in the last two games.  He has also given help in the passing game, adding five receptions and 36 yards.

Head coach Tom Coughlin and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride both said the Giants would ride the hot hand in the game, so it will be interesting to see how the carries are divvied up. Brown has earned an expanded role in the offense and the more successful the Giants are running the ball, the less time Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and the Eagles offense is on the field.

-LeSean McCoy vs. Osi Umenyiora

McCoy and Umenyiora will be continuing their rivalry tonight the first time the Eagles take the field.  They have developed a beef with each other that has been very public with a lot of the action taking place on twitter and through interviews.

The back and forth resembles something you would see on Monday Night Raw and seems playful, but McCoy and Umenyiora genuinely dislike each other.  Hopefully they meet each other tonight on the field and Umenyiora and the Giants can keep McCoy in check.

-Return to Where it All Began

Victor Cruz will be making his second appearance in Philadelphia, this time though as a starter.  Week three in Philadelphia is when Cruz burst onto the scene and the salsa touchdown dance was born thanks to a two touchdown performance against All-Pro Nnamdi Asomugha.

Hakeem Nicks is again out with injury, so Cruz will be asked to step up once again and build off his success against the Eagles after catching nine balls for 238 yards against them last year.  Look for Ramses Barden to also build off of his career and breakout performance against the Panthers in week 3, earning his second start in a row. 

-Keep Up the Pressure

Michael Vick has been getting beaten up this season and the Giants need to continue that trend.  The Giants had success last season because they hit Vick every chance presented to them, hitting him hard so that he remembers them and becomes more skittish.

Vick has more turnovers alone this season than every team in the NFL outside of the two.  He has thrown six interceptions and fumbled five times while losing three.  The Giants were able to lay a licking on Cam Newton last week and will have to try and do the same this week with the more fragile Vick. 

If the front led by Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Umenyiora can put pressure on Vick it will make the job of the rest of the defense that much easier.

The Giants-Eagles rivalry has been one-sided for the most part recently, with the Eagles taking seven of the last eight meetings including the 2008 playoff game.  It will not be easy for the Giants to turn around their fortunes, but if they want to win the NFC East they will have to beat the Eagles at least once if not twice.